Japanese star in Montreal

MONTREAL — Nine new Japanese pics will unspool at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival, which runs Aug. 22-Sept. 2.

Fest prexy Serge Losique announced the Japanese lineup Monday. Three of the titles will be in the festival’s official competition: writer-director Kei Kumai’s “To Love” (Aisuru), the story of a woman diagnosed with Hansen’s disease; helmer Yoshimitsu Morita’s “Lost Paradise” (Shisurakuen), an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Junichi Watanabe, and director Jun Ichikawa’s “Tokyo Yakyoku.”

Two weeks ago, the fest announced several Chinese films on tap, but the complete lineup will be announced in early August. In all, the fest will unspool about 200 films.

Making its North American preem will be “The Eel” (Unagi), the co-winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes festival in May. The pic, the latest from “The Ballad of Narayama” director Shohei Imamura, will be screened as part of the Hors Concours out-of-competition section at Montreal, which traditional presents several titles from the Cannes competition.

The festival will screen another prize-winner from Cannes, writer-director Naomi Kawase’s feature debut “Suzaku,” which won the Camera d’Or award for best first film. Kawase’s pic is a sad portrait of the disintegration of a family in a remote, rural village in Japan.

The Japanese selection at Montreal is rounded out by writer-director Yukiko Takayama’s “After the Wind Has Gone” (Kaze No Katami); former actor and musician Sabu’s “Postman Blues”; director Tetsuo Shinohara’s “One More Day, One More Chance” (Tsuki To Kyabetsu); and “Labyrinth of Dreams” (Yume No Ginga), the latest from helmer Sogo Ishii, who generated strong reaction at the Montreal fest in 1985 with “The Crazy Family.”

“We are thrilled with the Japanese selection … which reflects a veritable renaissance of the art of filmmaking in Japan,” said Losique. “There seems to be a new approach, a desire to tackle new themes and contemporary issues that are universal and more accessible to film lovers all over the world.”

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